So much of Ice Idanan’s Stranded relies on its initial conceit, which is a romance between two strangers developing during a night where they are both stranded inside a warehouse while a typhoon is ravaging the city. That conceit should be very well-executed because all of the film’s delights and its supposed wisdom hinges on whether or not the set-up has paved the way for all the character arcs to work so that its lovely little conclusion can have the most enduring effect.
Most possible lover
Sadly, this isn’t the case.
While Idanan competently navigates the story from the point where Spencer (Arjo Atayde), who delivers healthy meals to officer workers in the city), and Julia (Jessy Mendiola), an IT expert who needs to go to the office in the middle of the storm to fix her office’s website, are strangers to when they become the most possible lover for each other. Idanan goes through the motions of an ingenious set-up, showing her characters drowning in their personal worries while the rest of the world are in the midst of the chaos of an impending calamity.
Everybody seems to think that Spencer is a hopeless case. He has just resigned from being a corporate slave to work as an errand boy for his best friend’s meals delivery service. Julia, on the other hand, is beholden to her job, risking a scheduled dinner with her boyfriend’s family because she needs to attend to an emergency in the office. In one efficient introduction, Idanan covers most of the bases, pointing out the issues such as the overbearing boyfriend in the case of Julia or fear and lack of self-worth in the case of Spencer.
Everything is set. The film just needs a map to fully exhaust its course.
Cute and palatable encounters
What happens while Spencer and Julia are stranded however is just a nifty collection of cute and palatable encounters.
These aren’t the stuff that all of sudden pushes people to decide to change their lives. These are just novelties and niceties. It isn’t laziness on the part of screenwriter Easy Ferrer and Jeps Gallon that urged them to keep the set-up as event-free as possible. It is their insistence to be swayed into the arena of cute mumblecore, where romance supposedly develops by virtue of random conversations instead of actions and events. It is what is current. It is supposed to work.
Sadly, given that there really isn’t much of a story to push during the fateful overnight rendezvous between Spencer and Julia, it becomes a glaring stretch that not just the two characters but also everybody else around them abruptly shift their priorities.
All for the sake of convenience and without a rational reason, Julia’s boyfriend wants to be wed earlier, Julia becomes grossly discontent with her stable life and Spencer opts out of the rut. Stranded insists that it is because of its set-up, but there is nothing really in the set-up except for two strangers struggling to flirt that can serve as likely impetuses for drastic decisions.
In the end, Stranded has to rely on the strength of the performances of its two leads to sustain its broken conceit until the finish line.
If the film is stuck in the set-up, the charming portrayals of Atayde and Mendiola of their characters are miles away in the lead. Atayde is able to juggle being appropriately goofy and appealingly sincere quite seamlessly. Mendiola, on the other hand, provides a luminous presence, turning all the random conversations into spectacles of immediate attraction that are being suggested by the overly ambitious screenplay.
Will the two become more than friends?
Strength of the performances
Stranded is by no means a bad film. It still manages to delight. Its only problem is that the conceit it pushes for becomes its greatest demon, forcing it to have Atayde and Mendiola play the angels to salvage the film out of the rut. – Rappler.com
Francis Joseph Cruz litigates for a living and writes about cinema for fun. The first Filipino movie he saw in the theaters was Carlo J. Caparas' Tirad Pass.
Since then, he's been on a mission to find better memories with Philippine cinema.